The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the ACC.
AwardsOFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
David Wilson, running back, Virginia Tech
Throughout the regular season, no player was more consistent than Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. Championship game performance aside, Wilson was the answer every single time the Hokies needed a jolt for their occasionally-sputtering offense. As Logan Thomas grew into the starting quarterback position, Wilson was there as a crutch to help draw the attention of the opposing defense and deliver that home run play to seal a victory. He led the conference in rushing, totaled over 2,000 all-purpose yards, and was one of major reasons Virginia Tech made the ACC Championship Game for the fifth time in seven years.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Luke Kuechly, linebacker, Boston College
Arguably one of the best linebackers in Boston College history capped off his junior year by leading the nation in tackles for the second year in a row, and the . Kuechly sense for where the play is going is uncanny, and his physical abilities on the field make him deserving of his nickname: Superman. Off the field he'd remind you more of Clark Kent, but Kuechly credits that intense film study as a primary reason for his success. He averaged over 15 tackles per game in 2011, and added three interceptions including one pick-six. This is likely it for Kuechly, who is eligible for the NFL draft, but it has been a privilege to watch him dominate the position for the last three seasons.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson
The thing that makes Watkins a nightmare for opposing teams is the different ways he can have an effect on the game. Any time the explosive wide receiver has the ball in his hands, he is a threat to break loose and reach the end zone. Watkins lines up at wideout, slot receiver, H-back, runs end-arounds, and is both a kick and punt returner. On defense you have to be aware of where #2 is at all times, and in the special teams you have to decide whether you want to put the ball in his hands. Watkins also totaled over 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2011, something that has only been done six times in ACC history.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Mike London, Virginia
London's second season at Virginia was supposed to be another building block for the promising young coach back in his home state. After pulling in a top-ranked recruiting class in February, you could see the momentum moving towards Virginia becoming a player in the ACC once again. But with a roster of Al Groh's leftovers, the media picked the Cavaliers to finish only ahead of Duke in the ACC's Coastal Division. Virginia head very few stars, but London had them playing tough and physical football late in the season as they tore through the conference schedule and came within a game of clinching the school's first share of the ACC Coastal Division title.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Throwing for over 3000 yards with 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions is not simply the product of a "system." Boyd struggled some down the stretch - possibly the result of injuries along the offensive line - but when he was rolling no quarterback was better than the Tigers' redshirt sophomore. Boyd was given an arsenal of weapons at the skill positions, and he excelled at spreading the ball around to keep defenses on their toes. What's really scary is that Boyd and most of his comrades will be back to defend Clemson's title in 2012.
David Wilson, Virginia Tech and Lamar Miller, Miami
Like Wilson, Lamar Miller was a steady producer in an unsteady offense. The Miami offensive line dealt with injuries and position shifting all season, but Miller showed the ability to adapt on the fly and finished the season with over 1200 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Also like Wilson, Miller is nearly uncatchable if he can hit the sideline in space and will be a very high prospect if he decides to make the jump to the league after this season.
Dwight Jones, North Carolina and Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Jones and Watkins each had over 75 receptions, 1100 yards, and exactly 11 touchdowns in 2011. Only Wake Forest's Chris Givens was better in any statistical category (1.276 yards) and no wide receiver meant more to their team than the senior leader and the freshman phenom. They make an odd pair, but they were the two most consistent performers on the outside all season in the ACC.
Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Allen's size and speed make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, and only a case of turf toe slowed him from taking over a few games down the stretch. There was no tight end in the conference that jumped out quite like Allen, who was a red zone monster with eight touchdowns on the season.
Phillip Price, Clemson; Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina; Joe Looney, Wake Forest; Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech; and Jay Finch, Georgia Tech
The value of many of these offensive linemen was seen this season not just by what they did on the field but by how much their team was hurt when they were off the field. Significant drop-offs for these units that were otherwise rock solid showed the value of lineman like Phillip Price and Jay Finch, while others like Joe Looney stacked pancakes like an IHOP.
All-ACC DefenseDEFENSIVE LINE
Andre Branch, Clemson; Quinton Coples, North Carolina; Joe Vellano, Maryland; Brandon Thompson, Clemson
Clemson's dominant defensive linemen were given a green light to create havoc in the trenches all season, and that's exactly what they did. Vellano totaled 94 tackles on the season, but it was his 20 tackle performance in a 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech that stood out when very little for the Terps was working. Coples received extra attention and double-team treatment all season, yet still finished second in the ACC with 7.5 sacks.
Sean Spence, Miami; Luke Kuechly, Boston College; Zach Brown, North Carolina
The linebacker position was LOADED in the ACC. Terrell Manning from NC State, Bruce Taylor from Virginia Tech, Jeremiah Attaochu from Georgia Tech all could have been on this list, but these three players meant the most to their team at the position. Kuechly's accolades are well documented, but Spence and Brown took leadership of their group and led by example as playmakers all over the field.
David Amerson, NC State; Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech; Matt Daniels, Duke; Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Amerson came one interception away from breaking the ACC single-season record set by Dre Bly in 1997, and was an unsuspected star in a unit that was considered a weakness coming into the season. The secondaries in the ACC were also strong for the most part, but Hosley, Daniels, and Fuller got the nod for their flexibility to move positions/responsibilities yet still have a dramatic impact on the game. Fuller actually ranked 15th in the ACC in sacks with 4.5, just a half-sack behind teammate Bruce Taylor.
PK Cody Journell, Virginia Tech; P Shaun Powell, Florida State; KR/PR T.J. Graham, NC State
T.J. Graham and Sammy Watkins could have tied for the specialist honor, but I gave Graham the nod for his contributions across his career and the aforementioned Watkins praise currently covering this post. The placekicking was pretty dismal in the ACC, but Journell was one of the few consistent-ish kickers in the league. Powell is arguably one of the best punters in the nation, and similarly stood out after a season of questionable punting.
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